Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Salem, Or, Indecent Exposure

Today was the day for Salem, Massachusetts, a wild and weird way to spend Andrew's 29th birthday. As a fan of Halloween and ghost stories, I thought it would be right up my alley. Not so.

When we got off the train, we should've known the day would be odd when we came across a group of people dressed in costumes pretending to stone each other, leading a group of bewildered tourists toward a gallows that had been erected in the middle of the square.  When the crazies finally got the mob to the gallows -- a mob a little too eager to see an unjustified death, I might add -- the reenactors suddenly stopped, telling everyone they had to pay a ticket if they wanted to see the actual murder, which would take place inside. Cheese. Weird cheese.

We passed a tarot shop and a series of places selling lame t-shirts and funny-colored stones. I had to admire one shirt that had a picture of one of the "witches" being strung up, with onlookers cheering on the murder, and under the picture was printed one word: "Oops." 

So we go to the main attraction there in Salem, which is the Salem Witch Museum, where they usher you into a circular room and turn off the lights. All around the room, up high toward the ceiling, the museum has erected little scenes from the witch trials, which light up and speak when its time to tell that part of the story. Slightly lame, but props for a gesture toward creativity. The best part though was when we exited the exhibit, we were ushered through to one of the weirdest places I've ever been.

It's a triangular room, part of the museum, meant to dispel current stereotypes about witches.  It begins with movie posters pasted to the wall -- the Wizard of Oz, Macbeth, and so on -- and the guide points to them and accuses them of giving witches a bad rap.  Then she shows you a lit-up witch with a green face that says "Hollywood has done me wrong." Then the guide shows you a timeline that has "Western" dates on top of it -- when Christ was born, when Christians started persecuting witches, when Nancy Reagan approved space travel -- and "pagan" dates on the bottom -- when Stonehenge was probably created, when witches started being hung for their beliefs, etc. Only the pagan part of the timeline was oddly missing dates.

The last wall was the BEST.  It was a series of equations.  It said "God/Satan + fear = witch trials; Ignorance + McCarthy = red scare; infection + AIDS = the gay community."  We didn't really have anything to say to that, but we overheard one couple discussing the complete and utter ridiculousness of it.  One woman said, "I don't think that adds up." Her companion said, without irony,  "It's on the WALL so it MUST BE TRUE!"

The exhibit ended with plastic talking pagans who said, "Please ask us what we believe when we see you on the street. We don't believe in the devil. And please don't use the word 'warlock,' as it means 'traitor.'"  

Very, very, very odd.

We couldn't get out of Salem fast enough, and it turns out, we would have quite a bit of trouble getting home too. When we arrived at the bus stop to take us home in Roslindale, two drunk guys accosted us, threatening to expose themselves, which one actually did, and steal Andrew's watch or beat him -- whichever he decided would be more "fun."  In an effort to get away from these baffoons, we tried to take a taxicab, but we should've known we were in trouble when he elbowed his friend and grinned before letting us in.  He took the "scenic" route to say the least -- all the way through the arboretum, about 3/4 to 1 mile out of the way -- before depositing us at our street. Andrew, who was by this point exhausted and not a little furious from the culmination of the day's activities, asked for all of his change back, and the taxidriver, no doubt insulted and miffed he hadn't fooled us, chunked the change at us through the window, spitting and cursing as he did so. 


Anonymous said...

I have never heard such strange stories from one trip. Do you have travel demons? Does this sort of thing happen to you when you travel other places? Amazing!

Kacy said...

This happens absolutely everywhere I go. Just think of San Francisco. And when I visited New Orleans, I was chased by a guy with no legs, had my hat stolen by a mime, and was held at "gunpoint" by a guy with a plastic hand grenade filled with cooking oil, which he squirted on our shoes.